Pavin May At Last Be on the Rebound
So when news reached that he finished 13th at Milwaukee Sunday, I was overjoyed. For all the little guys, for all the people who appreciate someone who gets by on guile and guts and a whole lot of heart, this was awesome news. Could it be that Pavin is making an anxiously awaited comeback?
Corey Pavin, who a decade ago was winning a U.S. Open and starring in Ryder Cups, has been largely forgotten of late as the big bashers of the tour left him in the dust. Pavin doesnt hit it a long way, see, and the men of the PGA Tour have taken quantum leaps in driving distance. Corey is 5-9, 155 pounds, and learned to play golf by hitting all the proper shots ' except the long ball. The men who learned to play by just hitting the long ball and one or two other shots have gotten a distinct advantage in the past six or eight years.
Paul Azinger paid Pavin a high compliment on a Peter and Friends segment that was re-aired on TGC Sunday night. Azinger said that Corey was hugely talented, able to curve a ball 40 yards if need be to reach a pin. But, Zinger said, Pavin is hurt now because he doesnt play the air game. Neither, incidentally, did Azinger during a seven-year run at the top of the PGA Tour, he admitted. Pavin mastered the ground game and big-time golf has now moved on past the time when the ground game won consistently.
I dont know exactly was Zinger meant, but I suppose it has to do with players winning who hit the ball high and far, as opposed to those who make it dance while boring low and on a line. In a day when courses are often set up at 7,400-7,500 yards and pins are cut three paces from the side or from the front edge, it is imperative to arc the ball high and make it stop quickly.
But Pavin, like Azinger, has tried very hard to retool his swing to be more of a high-ball hitter. And it looks like it is beginning to succeed. He probably will never again achieve the success he did from 1991 to 1996, when he never was lower than 18th on the money list. But he could reasonably be a top-50 player if just a few things went right for him.
I've made some changes in my swing, it's different than it was in '95, he said at the U.S. Open, noting that he has worked on making his swing wider.
I've searched with a few different teachers, and worked with Butch Harmon for eight, nine months, 10 months, and it's improved a lot. Now I have to get out there and execute on the golf course.
As late as last year, Pavin was still struggling. He finished 148th on the money list and missed 18 cuts in 26 tournaments.
This year, he made the cut in his first six tries, hit a rocky patch when he missed three in a row, but has made it again in five of his last six. And he has improved 57 places on the money list from last year, having already won $532,291 for 91st position. Only once in the last seven years has he finished higher.
Pavin always was a deadly short-game player. But he lost confidence in all aspects of the game while going though his slump. Last year he finished 131st in putting, for example. This year, he stands third on tour on putts per round, 50th on putting average. Sounds like a little of the ol magic is back.
The ball itself doesnt curve nearly as much as it did before, negating one huge Pavin advantage of the early 90s. And the clubs further resist the bending of the ball. So he had to virtually learn the game all over again.
But Pavin is a golfer ' period. Hes going to succeed, regardless, hes going to come up with something to stay alive. He has one more year remaining on the 10-year exemption of his 95 Open victory. He is smart enough to devise a new game plan, even one which succeeds in the bash-it and find-it game.
His 267.3 yards per drive is only 189th on the tour ' about the same ranking as he had most of his career. But hes getting a little air under the ball now, and that is a positive when you consider that the courses now demand plenty of air-time. Pavin has been forced to change.
Its a little like telling Rembrant he no longer can use paint, he now has to use Crayons. But Pavin is certainly making the switch. And I, for one, am happy to see it.
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McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com Q-School
One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-School.
McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.
It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.
McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Web.com Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).
Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).
Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Web.com Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.
Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award
The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.
The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.
Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.
The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.
A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.
Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4
Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.
Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.
South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.
Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.
The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.
Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout
It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.
Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.
Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.
"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."
Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.
Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.